Trish thrives in Matakana 70 km north east of Auckland, New Zealand. She has developed a passion for the permaculture principle – Produce No Waste! With Trish’s leadership Mahurangi Wastebusters actively reduces damage to the environment. In this short video she explains how recycling reduces the environmental damage by reducing the demand for manufacturing, mining and transportation of goods. By leading the change, Trish is forging a circular economy.
Dumping Waste Worsens Climate Change
Waste is a huge contributor to climate change and reducing waste is a passion of Trish Allen. About six years ago she set up a Community Trust a non-profit organization. It is called Mahurangi Wastebusters to do waste education and provide waste sorting services at events. Because events create so much waste.
The Trust grew and became really popular. So, then when the opportunity came up to tender for two Council owned transfer stations they put a tender and got it! Now they run two community recycling centres. And they have converted them from transfer stations (where people used to dump their rubbish for landfill) into processing stations.
They now have 28 different waste streams. And a shop where we sell second-hand items. They send items for ethical processing. For example all the E-Waste goes down to a place in Auckland called Abilities which is an organization that employs about 200 people with disabilities. At Abilities, the employees ethically dismantle everything. So the components can go for proper processing. There are also projects in Waiuku in the Waikato processing plastic bags to make fence posts. This project is called Future Posts.
Mahurangi Wastebusters is also a drop-off point for plastic bags and Silage wrap which goes off to be made into a kind of a plywood. And they are a drop-off point for Tetra pack which goes off to be made into another kind of building material called Save Board.
Trish is very excited by the progress. “And now I’ve got a couple of wonderful young women working with me and one is going into Early Childhood centres to do waste audits for them. She installs worm bins, compost bins and also educates the children with stories and a little kiwi puppet. She teaches them about waste. And not making waste and not wasting things.
Also, I’ve got another young woman who’s doing well organising repair cafes. This is another kind of social permaculture that involves children and adults. It’s teaching people about waste and how not to do it, how to not just reduce waste but going back to a basic principle of permaculture – Produce no waste!
Generating a Circular Economy
“As we know the major environmental impact happens when you extract the resources out of the earth. So the longer we can keep them in in in our system in the circular economy the better!”
Trish has also organised a screening of the film ‘For the Blue’. It is a film made by young New Zealand surfers and tackles issues around plastic in our oceans. And what we can do about it. The film will be screened at the Matakana Cinema on 5 April and 6pm. Then viewers are invited to actively participate in teams with real-life solutions. These activites include:
– join a town clean up in Wellsford
– join a beach cleanup at Goat Island
– pledge to only use a reusable coffee cup for a month ( no single use cups)
– pledge to only use a reusable water bottle for a month (no plastic bottles)
And Trish is co-teaching in New Zealand a 2 week PDC in April 2023.
Thank you for being part of a better future for all.
The best way to lighten our footprint is to consume less. Then the next best way is to find ways to use the stuff to its full potential. Finally, lets use our waste to regenerate the environment.
Every dollar we spend has the power to influence what the producers create. And how we limit, convert, or use our waste has the power to influence our environment. Let’s use this power for good.
Mindful consumption has three stages. Firstly, there’s the respect and awareness of the waste generated throughout the total life of the product. Secondly, there’s the search for ways to use the materials to their full potential. Then thirdly, we find ways to reclaim the materials to regenerate the environment.
To buy or not to buy! That is the basic question. Above all refuse everything that cannot be recycled. And, if you get a choice, choose materials that cost less energy to produce and cost less energy to recycle. For instance, both wood and metal biodegrade. But wood costs less to create and is less dangerous as it degrades.
The Consumer Trap
As consumers we’re trapped in an ongoing cycle where resources are taken from the earth They are manufactured as cheaply as possible. Then we like it. But soon forsake it for the next big thing. But we need to resist everything that is harmful.
Every day, waste washes up on tiny island beaches and it’s often from another country. The truth is we don’t know the real cost of our waste. Nylon is one of the biggest pollutants in city harbours. The Nano plastics, tiny plastics, can get into our skin and bloodstream. Next time you buy underwear, check the material. Plastic based materials include nylon and elastin whereas natural fibers include cotton and wool. And when you go to throw out the old underpants that are made of natural fibers you can put them into the worm farm.
It’s a good idea to know the true cost of the manufacture the mining, the wearing or using, and the disposal of a product. The true cost of the mining of materials includes the loss of habitat, loss of carbon into the atmosphere, loss of soil to absorb water, and polluted streams and rivers. And mining often occurs in remote areas in communities of vulnerable people. And in countries of poor governance. As a consumer, do we want support the abuse of vulnerable communities?
Why Throw That All Away?
In the consumer trap we take make like and forsake. That’s pretty much blind consumption. Alternatively, it would be great to live with purposeful consumption where we accept stuff that we can determine its reuse. Then we protect it by maintaining it maybe even improve it by restoring it or retrofitting it. Later, when we don’t need it anymore, we let someone else have it. Ghandi said “Live simply so others may simply live”. Cutting harmful consumption lets all beings can live better.
Exploring the R’s
Reusing something doesn’t change the product or its function. Whereas, repurposing it gives it a totally different function. For instance, we can reuse a jar to store leftovers then as the jar gets old and scratched we can reuse it for seed raising or a potted plant. A fun reuse of a product is to redistribute it. To share it. Sharing spreads goodwill. Think about the full cost of hoarding. Do you desire a home for stuff or a home for people?
Reuse, Repurpose and Redistribute
Repair, Retrofit , Remodel and Restore
Things usually break because we are using them. This means they have value to us and our part of our lives. And having an attitude to repair things helps us to deal with mistakes and failures better than this some repairs can make the items stronger or more beautiful patchwork and invisible mending turns a piece of clothing into a walking artwork. There are repair cafes all around the world they bring people together the knowledge keepers feel valued and the consumer discovers how to fix things.
Now let’s have a look at restoration. Nature is that it is forever optimistic life doesn’t give up it pushes through and it demands to find a way. Nature will colonize a building with mold and plants and it will slowly turn the building back into soil. Maintaining things saves energy saves resources and it honours our heritage.
Redesign and Regenerate
We can place things at random or we can consider their use and their interaction and integrate them in the example on the left where there’s random placement of things the car or the van is a pollution source to the pond it’s a threat to the chickens and the falling fruit is a bit of a menace if it’s near the pathway whereas in the designed placement the palm tree shades the van the van doesn’t pollute the pond because there’s a filtering garden between and the fallen fruit goes directly to the chickens beyond converting waste into new products or finding more efficient connections.
There are many ways to use waste to regenerate the environment. The simplest regenerative act is to save seed and grow it into a new plant. And a hedge is a regenerative substitute for the rusting metal fence.
Turn Waste into Wealth
Food waste becomes fertilizer. Grey water benefits gardens. And restored homes, antiques and vintage clothing can turn a profit.
In summary, we reduce waste by refusing non-recyclables, resisting hazardous materials and sharing items. Then we explore the many ways to get full use out of things. This includes reusing, repurposing, retrofitting, repairing, remodelling and restoring. Ultimately, the best avoidance of waste lies in the redesign of the items so that they are easily deconstructed and responsibly repurposed and recycled. Finally, we redesign our lifestyles so we use things more efficiently.
Next time you buy something: choose the product that is made with biological resources. Because nature works for free seven days a week and it doesn’t need any help from us to recycle.
Rocket stoves are super efficient. All you need is a bundle of sticks or dried cobs to cook dinner for the whole family. Best of all, this fuel is easy to find. There’s no need to chop down trees or burn fossil fuel.
Last month we went on a great adventure staying in an ancient village in the Shandong province of north-eastern China. We went with fellow Australian, Shoaying. She grew up in rural China and has expertise in Permaculture and Environment Management.
Shoaying is patient, knowledgeable, well-organised and fun. We were keen to see early stove technology known as the Kang. Our Permaculture courses demonstrate the use of integrated technologies such as a hybrid Rocket stove.
According to research at Tongji University, “The Chinese Kang is an ancient integrated home system for cooking, sleeping, domestic heating and ventilation. It is still widely used today in nearly 85% of rural homes in northern China. In 2004, there were 67 million Kangs used by 175 million people.”
Archeologists have found Kangs from 7,000 years ago. The Kang is still cooking, heating, drying herbs and garments and ventilating millions of homes everyday. Ingeniously, the flue of the stove fans out underneath the big family bed in the next room before rising up a chimney in the next wall. The warmth must be a joy when it is snowing outside and fuel is low.
Unfortunately, the Chinese Kang is in slow decline due to intense urbanisation. Given that each household uses approximately 4kg of poor quality fuel, a small city of a million people would need to bring in 4,000 tonnes of fuel each day and dispose or reuse the ash. This would incur a transportation and network cost. Not to mention the need to redesign existing urban buildings to incorporate chimneys.
Essentially, a Rocket Stove has well-engineered air flow, there is a J bend to the chimney and good insulation to increase combustion temperatures. The hottest spot in a rocket stove is not at the flame, it is a little further up where the gases get fully party. As a result, the gases burn off furiously, whipping around in circles before they go up the chimney. A modern rocket stove sounds like a primitive turbo. To get this effect, it has a very good air intake and an elbow in the chimney. The fuel sits on a grate letting the air rush up from underneath. The combustion chamber is underneath the cookplate. In many other wood stoves, a lot of the heat flies away up the chimney. The rocket stove intensifies the burn then concentrates energy directly at the pan.
Today, science is building toward a standard for the term ‘Rocket’ stove. Because there is a tiny-sized, yet big difference between a modern Rocket stove [or Rocket-mass heater] the ancient Kang. The modern Rocket stove has an insulated post-combustion chamber (technical term for a space between the flametips and the cookplate). This chamber intensifies the burn and reduces potential pollutants. In addition to this technical development, a moving cowl would increase the Venturi effect of the chimney.
Insulation Builds Intensification
Insulation in a firebox is vital for conserving energy. As a result, the outer area of the stove stays cool. Only the flue heats up. In well insulated stoves, the energy is concentrated on the cook-top. In China, locally made mud-straw bricks surround their stoves. Sand or ash in the mud-brick can ensure even higher insulation-rates. The Kang utilises the residual chimney heat. The chimney gases travel from the cooktop through the wall and fan out along a set of tunnels under the bed in the next room, then up a chimney on the next wall. Unlike the insulated stove, the bed has plenty of thermal mass, and the mattress is thin. So, the bed is toasty warm up by the time the dishes are washed.
Stove Fuel Resourcefulness
Fuel is easy to find for the stove. For instance, most people burn a bundle of prunings from local orchards or stalks from the corn and wheat fields. In addition to these, dried corncobs (after the juicy kernels have been removed) combust very well. Each house has a collection of little bundles of sticks at their door and sunning on the roof. Corn husks (the papery outer layer) are a convenient, easy, biodegradable material. Perfect to wrap the dumplings. Also, rinsing and drying the wrappers enables easy re-use. Finally, these used wrappers become great starter-fuel for the stove.
Northern Chinese Kang Stoves are very adaptable. You can cook fish or soup at the bottom of the giant wok and stick corn cakes to the sloping sides. Alternatively, you can use water in the base and insert a grid at half way up to steam foods like the dumplings. The video shows how to make glass noodles. Rocket Stove cuisine of Northern China doesn’t bake or grill foods. In summary, closed cook-pans with quick cook times are more efficient.
At the end of the day, home-made Mooncakes taste wonderful when steam-baked on a kang stove, the traditional way.
Do you love your garden to death? Most gardens thrive on enthusiasm but this can accidentally kill it in just a few easy steps.
The good news is that a garden doesn’t usually die quickly. But the flip side of the slow decline is that it is a quiet, sulking kind of demise. You might wonder what you’re doing wrong. Or perhaps you wonder now what is really lost in a the death of a garden?
Essentially, poor design kills a garden. Step outside and ask yourself: How can a garden suffer and die?
Few people understand their landscape. Fewer discover what gardens really need in order to thrive. Basically, it’s all about the soil. There are 5 simple, yet vital, components in soil for growing healthy plants.
The 5 ingredients needed for good soil are: Air pockets, in-ground stored Water, Minerals, Organic Matter and Organisms. Plants need little pockets of air in the soil so they stretch out their roots and grow. Luckily, air is free. You don’t need to rush out and get any specialist aerating tools. Just sit down and observe how the air is being lost. Most commonly, air is lost from a garden by people treading all over it. Secondly, air can get pushed out by poor water management. The third way to suffocate the garden is to allow visitors, children, pets, wind and rain to bare the soil. If your garden is doing poorly then leaving the soil to lie naked to the elements will certainly top it off.
It is easy to kill a garden with bad water management. Check that there is water in your soil. The best test is to see if you can actually dig a hole. If you need a machine to dig a hole then you have soil that is perfect for making pots but not growing plants. If you find your soil blowing away, you have soil perfect for making children’s sand-pits. Build up the organic matter and this should start a beautiful habitat for micro-organisms.
In an era when we are rushing from one activity to the next, it is easy to think “if a little bit is good then a lot is even better” This is not true of Garden-Love-Potions like fertiliser. Even natural, organic and locally sourced fertiliser is only required sparingly and only as a kick-start. Once the organisms are thriving, let them be. Don’t let your relationship with the soil become toxic.
Enthusiastic people are prone to over-commitment. They put their hands up at community meetings, cook-up great feasts for family and friends, work on the board of directors for lots of projects and then, OUCH – the inevitable mishap brings their plans tumbling into chaos.
Design the garden to provide for itself. Let the leaves sit to decompose in flower beds. Design to let the water slowly percolate through the garden beds. Let the plants self-seed.
In truth, plants like being part of a community. A sapling that is planted all on its own has to endure full sun, hurling winds, stinging rain and children’s misguided footballs. Whereas, deep in a forest, a sapling is nurtured by its elders and then rises to fill their void when they are struck down by the elements. A harsh adolescence for a garden will either kill it or forever bear the scars.
Some gardens are on high alert. They are cracked up and full of weeds because they are desperately trying to correct imbalances and build a habitat for wildlife again.
Lets talk about weeds. When a garden has weeds this means the gardener has neglected to plant anything else that would thrive in that place. Sometimes weeds are your friend, helping you rejuvenate an exhausted soil. Pulling out the weeds can be akin to pulling out the life-support for a garden. If your garden needs a lot of maintenance, it will not give you much joy. Vandana Shiva challenges us “What will life look like when we finally win the war against nature?”
Some gardens are Fashion Victims. They are in a constant stateofhystericalraptureorecstasy. They try everything possible to be dramatically striking.
Is you garden desperately screaming for your attention? Do you make it change the colour, shapes and philosophies just to stay lovable? Perhaps, one year its Minimalism next its Abundantly White.
Being trendy is not gentle on the planet or your wallet. Anything that is in right now is highly likely to be out next season. Garden fashions include vast areas of lawn. Worst of all is the fashion that covers a garden with hard surfaces. These kill the soil underneath and concentrate fast flowing water onto the little remnants of natural plants and soil. A resilient design includes rain gardens, and soft landscaping. A resilient garden gently adapts over the decades.
A new way of growing food has emerged in this modern era. Some factories can grow food without any living organisms in their soil. [In the hydroponics industry it isn’t even called soil – it is called a growing media]. Factory garden systems need a constant supply of nutrients, climate control, sophisticated water systems, reliable energy supplies and very close monitoring. Sitting in a hydroponics factory really doesn’t feel the same as sitting in an abundant permaculture glade full of food and wildlife. What this tells us is how amazing a natural system truly is.
Let’s pause before you really kill that garden. Would you be better off with an amicable split? Can you afford the guilt? OK, maybe, but can you really afford the diminished real estate value? You could sell up before the relationship gets really ugly.
If you are too busy for a garden, you might need a garden that doesn’t need you? Luckily for you and the planet, a forest doesn’t ask for any input except to be allowed to exist. The forest plans to be there for you whenever you want to connect. Help protect a forest for a better future for us all.
Needy gardens have a weak structure that will break under the slightest neglect. These gardens have grown accustomed to a regime of control. They expect to be pruned as soon as possible after the wind has ruffled them. They cry for water then as soon as the sun gets too intense because they have developed shallow root systems or have been kept contained and imprisoned in a totally man-made environment. It is not the garden’s fault. It is the original set up that created this dysfunctional system.
The only hope for a needy garden is to redesign it. Accept that nature is more powerful than you, even when you think you are the one in control. Learn to let go. Masanobu Fukuoka developed the art of letting go and observing what is most the productive and compatible way to garden. Everyone’s garden is different and every solution requires observation before action.
Your garden doesn’t understand you. You stand outside on a beautiful, sunny day but you feel cold. The pergola vine doesn’t drop its leaves to let the winter light. That shrub your Aunt gave you is now a huge tree and keeps dropping leaves into the neighbour’s pool. They never invite you to their parties. Your washing line is covered in pollution from the city, so you use the clothes dryer. The electricity bill is ever-increasing. The path to the bin is mossy and slippery. The friendly neighbour’s weeds are all over the fence. You wave politely. A flock of birds roost in the branches of a tree that hangs over the driveway. They sing joyously as they poop all over your car. The children’s play area is burning hot. So, they beg to play virtual reality games instead but they are full of energy.
The house gets noisy so you decide to drive them to their favourite playground miles away. It is attached to a take-away restaurant. Your Grandfather asks why the children are getting fat. Is this garden determined to kill you? The lack of garden design is the culprit.
The garden media push is intense and at times, irresistable. Garden expos, magazines and television shows love making us feel that our garden is inadequate. Getting home, we view our own space as dated and full of chores.
We want that totally NOW garden. Go get that enthusiastic and uncommonly attractive design team in the Video. Yes, throw out the existing plants, get in some fancy trees, truck loads of soil, plastic weed-mat, mountains of cement and bright paint. Crush the old garden!
But there can be happy memories and cozy familiarity in tending something old. It costs a lot (emotionally and financially) to kill a garden. Yet it costs very little to be kind, observant and reconcile your love affair with your garden.